Clemson has not won a national championship in football since Danny Ford was their head coach in the 1981 football season.
The Clemson Tigers quite often take some heat for being an overrated football program with many comments coming from other school’s fans calling them an under achiever.
I am a big Clemson fan. That’s not really saying a lot, because I am a big fan of several college football programs.
Clemson has about as rabid a fan base as any other program including any SEC school, and
Clemson’s Death Valley which is not to be confused with LSU’s version of Death Valley is a very difficult place for outside teams to come in and play.
Notre Dame came to Clemson last weekend and took their first loss in one of the better games of the early season.
Clemson fans love their Tigers and Death Valley is without a doubt as loud as just about any football stadium in the country.
Danny Ford left Clemson after the Tigers were placed on probation and they replaced him with Ken Hatfield who was a former player at Arkansas and had some success in coaching college football at the Air Force Academy and at Arkansas.
He left his home in Arkansas to take over at Clemson and led the Tigers to a 10-2 record in his first season in 1990. But, Clemson fans never took to Hatfield even after another good year in 1991 when the Tigers went 9-2-1.
The fans felt they were correct in their feelings on Hatfield when the Tigers went 5-6 in 1992. Even after Hatfield brought the Clemson Tigers back in 1993 with a decent 8-3 won/loss record he resigned as head coach because of a perceived lack of support at Clemson.
The Tigers hired Tommy West as their new head coach and he led Clemson to a dismal 31-28 record over 5 seasons.
They turned to a familiar football name to resurrect the program when they hired Tommy Bowden, the son of popular Florida State football coach, Bobby Bowden.
The younger Bowden brought Clemson back to respectability and he posted a 72-45 record for the Tigers. In 2008 the Tigers were ranked in the top 10 and expected to be great, but Bowden resigned when the Tigers under performed incredibly and they were 3-3 after their first 6 games.
Clemson named Bowden’s Wide Receiver coach Dabo Swinney as their interim head coach. The 3-3 Tigers went 4-2 in Swinney’s first 6 games and they signed Swinney to a five year contract and he has been the Clemson Tiger’s head coach since then.
His first real year as head coach, in 2009, the Clemson Tigers went 9-5. Clemson may have had
second thoughts about Dabo Swinney when his second full season saw the Tigers stumble to a rather unimpressive 6-7 showing.
But, the following year in 2011, Clemson came back with a 10-4 record. Then, they won 11 games for the next 2 seasons. Last season, in 2014, the Tigers went 10-3 with a big win over Oklahoma in the Russell Athletic Bowl game.
In spite of winning 42 games in 4 seasons, the Clemson Tiger reputation remains. Good team, but never good enough to go to the next level.
Here’s why I think that changes.
Never mind the Notre Dame victory, that is a big deal. But, an even bigger deal is the big picture.
Dabo Swinney and his Clemson staff are recruiting lights out.
They aren’t winning the recruiting titles away from perennial winner Alabama, but they are bringing in some outstanding talent.
Deshaun Watson is one of the better examples of that. Watson was the top rated Dual Threat Quarterback prospect in the country in the 2014 recruiting class, and Clemson won his services. But, the improved recruiting is actually going back before the 2014 class.
Notre Dame Wide Receiver Will Fuller is having an All American season in 2015. In 2014, Fuller was one of the more explosive receivers in the country with 76 receptions for nearly 1,100 yards and a rather impressive 15 Touchdown receptions and a lot of those were of the blowing Defensive Backs away variety.
Fuller is an outstanding Wide Receiver and a serious All American candidate. Redshirt sophomore Corner Back Mackensie Alexander helped hold Fuller to 2 catches for 37 yards. Alexander had
responsibility for Fuller for a good portion of the game and he deserves consideration when trying to find the best Cornerbacks in the country.
Clemson lost a lot of starters on the defensive front including stars Vic Beasley and Grady Jarrett. True signs of a top program is not losing a beat when you lose top players.
Junior Shaq Lawson was one of the better defensive linemen I have seen all year against the Fighting Irish. Lawson had 7 tackles with 3.5 of those coming for losses and that was going up against Notre Dame All American Offensive Tackle Ronnie Stanley. The very hyped Stanley is considered by some as the top Offensive Tackle in the nation and Lawson gave him more than he wanted all night long.
Some other notable talents on this year’s Clemson’s squad are Wide Receivers Artavis Scott and Mike Williams. Unfortunately, Mike Williams was injured in the first game and will be lost for the season. But, Williams is a 6-4, 220 Wide Receiver with the knack for the big play. Scott was one of the better true freshmen players last season and finished 2014 with 76 catches. This season, Scott is off and running again and has 25 receptions and 3 Touchdowns, so far.
With a healthy Williams, this may have been the top receiving group in the country.
Safety Jayron Kearse is a super talented 6-5, 220 junior out of Fort Myers, Florida. Kearse ran step for step with speedy Notre Dame return man CJ Sanders, and then hauled him down to save a possible Irish Touchdown.
The past 3 Clemson Tiger recruiting classes have been great, but the latest one could be the best of them all.
The Clemson Offensive Line recruiting class just has to be the best in the nation. With Offensive Tackles Mitch Hyatt, Jake Fruhmorgen, Noah Green and Zach Giella, this Clemson Offensive Line class is as good as any I have seen lately.
Much attention was given last year to Alabama’s Cam Robinson and deservedly so. But, Clemson Left Tackle Mitch Hyatt might be every bit as talented and as good.
Once, it was rare for Offensive Linemen to come in and play as true freshman. But, the young recruits are getting more and more talented. They are bigger, and they are stronger and they are more ready now than they were just a few seasons ago.
Last season it wasn’t just Alabama’s Robinson starting as a true freshman. There was Mason Cole starting at Left Tackle for Michigan. There were 3 true freshmen starters on the Offensive Line at USC.
Mitch Hyatt at Clemson looks to be as good as any of them.
Going up against a really good Notre Dame defense, Mitch Hyatt not only held his own, he actually dominated.
At 6-5, 295, Hyatt is slightly smaller than Cam Robinson, but he is super strong and is much quicker laterally. Hyatt started for Clemson at it’s most important Offensive Line position immediately and looks to be a difference maker for the next three years before making himself available for the NFL Draft.
In high school, Hyatt went up against the nation’s number one recruit Robert Nkemdiche and again held his own and Hyatt was only a sophomore. That’s extremely impressive.
Hyatt goes up against super Defensive End Shaq Lawson every day in practice and by all accounts that match up is a daily war.
I’ve seen it reported that Hyatt is the first true freshman to start at Clemson in the Offensive Line on opening day since 1944, but another site said he was the first one ever. Whichever is accurate is not even important, what is important is that Mitch Hyatt is super talented and might become Clemson’s top all time Offensive Lineman.
Mitch Hyatt’s Uncle Dan Benning was an All ACC Defensive Tackle for the Clemson Tigers last national championship in 1981.
Does history repeat itself? Maybe, with another member of the Benning, Hyatt family in the lineup and better talent the Clemson can finally put the talk of them under achieving to bed once and for all.